Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Life is a series of choices; some are trivial and others heavy with consequence. Some are just plain fun, like deciding which car to drive when leaving home for the day (or evening). More often than not, it was an amusing act that could set the tone and supply context for whatever adventure was in store.
One day, I was going to lunch at The Brown Derby in Hollywood with an aspiring writer who, at the time, was a bartender at Matthew Ettinger's nightclub the Plush Bunny. On that day, I threw the decision to him about which car to drive. The selection included the GTO, a standard steel-bodied, dark blue S-Type Bentley and a silver and black James Young-bodied, R-Type Bentley. He chose the R-Type; I think he liked the understated elegance of the James Young lines and the rich burled walnut dash and trim complementing the sumptuous leather upholstery--an appropriate conveyance for two gentlemen on their way to a proper luncheon. After lunch, we exchanged the Bentley for the Ferrari and spent the rest of the day tear-assing around L.A. in the GTO.
One evening, Matthew Ettinger and I decided to drive to Palm Springs for dinner (4 hours round trip) with our girlfriends. We could have taken the GTO and Breadvan, as you might expect we would, but that night we took the James Young R-Type. I don't know why because the road from L.A. to Palm Springs is great for traveling at high speeds and cutting up the moving chicanes also known as freeway traffic. In any case, we all went together in the Bentley and sang songs in the car (not) and as Matthew explored a running stream-of-consciousness that touched upon lugubrious comestibles (butter, for example) and other less quotable topics in a desultory fashion, I held the Bentley rock steady and true at over 90 mph in the pouring rain until we reached Palm Canyon Drive. When Matthew and I were out together, dinner was always something of an articulated, three-ring event often conscripting diners we hadn't previously met and by the time we closed the restaurant, the rain had stopped so I didn't have to drive quite so carefully on the way home.
During a later era, my selection included a Maserati Quattroporte, two Maserati Mistrals and a bright yellow, 327 Corvette Stingray with mag wheels. Each of these would set a different tone and tenor for the outing--even the two Mistrals had different personalities, if you can imagine, one being a little more raucous than the other. I really liked the Quattroporte--a series one with the rectangular headlights--and would sometimes go for rides up the coast at night and my father would come along. I liked this car so much that I drove it in spite of not knowing where to find reverse. A week or so after it arrived from Italy, I finally found reverse in a spring-loaded position alongside first gear; until that moment, I would have to push the car out of parking spaces or park at the curb in a red zone (leaving an 'out of gas/gone for gas' note on the windshield) where I wouldn't need to back up to leave.
You might think that deciding upon the right car for going on a date would be something of a fine art but, apart from a landmark occasion when I was working in Palm Springs on Dean Martin's film The Wrecking Crew where I suspect that the Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso may have had an influence on a woman in her thirties accepting my teen-aged invitation to dinner, I never got the impression the car I was driving factored into the situation.
On one occasion, I was on a first date with a very attractive woman and I was inexplicably driving a seven-year-old Chevrolet Corvair with (very) leaky seals that was pumping large quantities of oil onto the engine and exhaust pipes. It was a real treat for those keen on the smell of burning fossil fuels and the theater of stopping at red lights and having a mile or so of trailing smoke catch up with the car and engulf it was spectacular to say the least. Finally, my date asked me if the car was on fire. "Not yet," I told her.
I found that if you drive whatever car you have as though it were a Ferrari, there will never be a dull moment and who can ask for more than that?